Tuesday, June 24, 2008

She wants the luxury of her own life. I've blogged about this before, but since nobody listens to me, I'll try again.

Brandeis University released a new study, "Gender Imbalance in American Jewish Life," claiming that in non-Orthodox settings, "American Jewish boys and men have fewer connections to Jews and Judaism in almost every venue and in every age, from school-age children through the adult years....Contemporary liberal American Judaism, although supposedly egalitarian, is visibly and substantially feminized."

Feminized? Apparently the ladies are taking over! In the Reform movement, the largest Jewish religious movement in America, Women outnumber men in seminaries, youth groups, summer programs, and prayer services.

And you should be worried! The Brandeis study argues that "men's decreased interest in Jews and Judaism walks hand in hand with apathy toward creating Jewish households and raising Jewish children." No more Jewish babies! Because the women are taking over!

But fear not! Here come the men-only Brotherhoods, men-only barbecues, dare-devil birthright israel trips, and man-centric Passover Haggadahs. Because HaShem knows that the traditional Passover Hagaddah is really misandry run amok.

Personally, I think you can blame assimilation and the break down of the insular Jewish community for the alleged disappearance of men from the Jewish community. Ideal American manhood is not compatible with stereotypical of Jewish manhood. Who wants to be the nebbishy, wimpy Jewish Other when you can be the wealthy, handsome, sexy American Man who gets to fuck the hot shiksah (think Portnoy's Complaint here). Jewish men don't want to maintain a connection to Judaism, and because Judaism is passed down through the woman, marrying a non-Jew is the ultimate rejection of Judaism.

American Jewish women, on the other hand, are embracing their new and hard-won role in the Jewish community. Gone are the days when Jewish women could be cook and wet nurse but nothing more. American Jewish women don't have to sit behind a mehitzah anymore, and you can't make them!

Says Brandeis: "Some suggest that in the Western world, spirituality, especially in more liberal denominations, has become associated with femininity. Others believe that men are reluctant to join organizations unless they can play leadership roles, and with the entry of large numbers of women into synagogue life, there are fewer such opportunities for men."

The fact of the matter is that there is no inherent gender bias in Judaism. The second class citizenship of women in Judaism has everything to do with culture and nothing to do with religious prescription. Stop blaming women for your religious community not looking the way you want it to when, frankly, every sociologist with his (or her) PhD can tell you that women have always been the key sustainers of religious devotion in times of strife. The sooner men realize that women are not usurping their throne, the happier we'll all be.

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